Betrayal is…

This weapon got past the police guards and into the La Joya prison complex. It was used to kill a young police subteniente and an inmate, and wound others. National police photo.

With death merchants hiding in the ranks…

by Eric Jackson

It would not surprise if some deal is made with prosecutors or judges to procure a ruling that none of this ever happened and that anyone who suggests that it did is the true criminal. But somebody brought a high-powered semi-automatic weapon, which can be switched to fully automatic, into the La Joya prison complex.

There is an administrative investigation to see if somebody neglected their duties. Two prison employees are said to be the foci.

But let’s live in the real world. Such weapons get into the prisons not because of some unfortunate oversight, but by means of bribery. Repeatedly we have seen people on the police force, people in the courts and people working for the Public Ministry to be covert gangsters. Let’s hope that the proper people are identified and penalized.

There is a culture of deceit and betrayal here — it even has a Panamanian Spanish phrase for it, “juega vivo.” Mix into it a political culture of parties that stand for nothing in particular, people who sell their votes rather cheaply, bribery and conflicts of interest in both the private and public sectors and exaggerated individualism in general. We get the kind of betray wherein some police officer who is supposed to guard the prison and its inmates sells out a fellow officer.

We should be careful not to carry our indignation to misguided extremes, but Panama really does need a moral uprising against this sort of thing. Indignation is properly on the agenda.


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